Peter Liang, An Asian American scapegoat?

(From Huffington Post)

By Frank H. Wu, Distinguished Professor, UC Hastings College of the Law

Peter Liang has been made a scapegoat. The dictionary definition of the Biblical term is an individual (originally a goat) sacrificed for the sins of others. He is a fall guy. The Chinese American New Yorker has been found guilty of killing Akai Gurley, an unarmed African American, in an 2014 encounter in public housing.

Chinese-American officer Peter Liang was convicted of manslaughter for the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man in a darkened public housing stairwell.

Chinese-American officer Peter Liang was convicted of manslaughter for the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man in a darkened public housing stairwell.

There is no doubt that racial discrimination and disparities, some of which is open and much of which is structural and subtle, continues to afflict law enforcement that is legitimate and necessary. So much has happened recently that even those who would have denied the phenomenon must admit there is a pattern. It is black people, in particular young men, who are being killed without justification. The demands for justice cannot be gainsaid.

Yet our understanding of these troubling dynamics has been not only literally but also figuratively black and white.

The record of official bigotry toward African Americans should not require revisiting. But perhaps it is worth noting that among the slave-catchers who pursued fugitives who had wrested away their freedom, the Southern sheriffs such as “Bull” Connor whose vicious attacks on peaceful protesters were a catalyst for the civil rights movement, and the Los Angeles officers whose beating of Rodney King was captured on film, none were of Asian descent.

The history, however, of Asian American solidarity with African Americans is not especially known. Even Asian Americans are unaware of the alliances. The Japanese American Citizens League, founded in 1929, sent a contingent to march with the Reverend Martin Luther King in Washington, D.C. The “Yellow Power” movement of the Summer of Love copied the “Black Power” movement. Yuri Kochiyama, a Japanese American admirer, held Malcolm X after he was shot, though she remained an “unidentified” Asian woman in the photo of the moment. The late Grace Lee Boggs, formerly the dutiful daughter of Chinese Americans, was such a radical organizer with her husband, James, son of a black sharecropper, government surveillance operatives tagged her as possibly black. Read more

 



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